Make an midcentury modern style planter with hairpin table legs and an old laundry tub

make a midcentury planterEnterprising reader Nate Anderson, who contributed to our recent uploader (we got 228 photos!), impressed everyone with a DIY project that could have come straight out of a 1956 Popular Mechanix: Marry an old washtub to hairpin table legs and plant it up to make a fabulous midcentury modern style planter.

This project actually started with trash-picking, which I prefer to call dumpster-diving, even if a dumpster is not involved. Sounds classier, don’t you think? Nate uploaded the photo above, writing:  

This spring I found a couple turquoise fiberglass laundry tubs curbside.

DIY-plantersThen, he got creative:

Attached a few hairpin legs and I ended up with some custom atomic planters. 🙂

I especially appreciate how Bate varied the height of the hairpin legs to create even more drama. And he also knows how to design a container garden: Tall stuff, flat stuff, and stuff that grows to sweep down — nicely played!

Update: Originally, Nate was identified as “mystery reader” in my blog post, because he hadn’t included his name with the uploaded photos. When he came forth to take his bow, I clicked over to his website — Avocado Green — and guess what: No surprise whatsoever at the beautiful execution of this idea, because Nate is a Registered Landscape Architect!

Thank you for this great idea, Nate, although I don’t know how many of us are going to be so lucky as to find scrumptious vintage turquoise fiberglass laundry tubs out on trash day! But here’s an idea: Use spray paint that’s made to paint plastic to get just the retro color you want!

Hmmmm…. what else could we
put hairpin table legs on
to make planters like this?

  • See our story 9 places to buy hairpin table legs. I think quite a few readers do the Amazon thing, because I see some affiliate dough-re-mi come from them every month. Merci beau coups — helps keep the blog boat afloat!


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  1. Jay says

    Sounds like that vintage game show “To Tell The Truth”. Will the real mystery reader please step forward. When I saw the pictures I was like wow, never knew the tubs came in any color but white. Looking forward to the ideas, I have to elevate plants now because rabbits discovered delicious $$ annuals at ground level, even if the lawn is full of clover.

  2. John says

    So great they are still making them. When our den was remodeled, the contractor doing the entire room used a set of hairpin legs, plywood, trim some Brady Bunch “bittersweet” orange Formica to create a coffee table to match the built in counter tops.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes: I now have yet ANOTHER way to look at everything at the ReStore, not to mention neighbors’ trash piles. It never ends….

  3. Carolyn says

    Well now, that ain’t no zig-zag tire planter, our new “vintage” planters since it’s difficult to find the right tires to make them out of, and those planters found in the wild have a tendency to be the first scuttled.
    We had a planter that we didn’t know what it was until all the plants died off and discovered it was a washer drum!
    These washtub/hairpin planters combine mid-century style, old-fashioned thrift and Yankee ingenuity – I salute you!

  4. tammyCA says

    I thought those were so cool when I saw them in the uploader..and they already have built in drainage. I always complain that I never find anything really neat (and affordable) when yesterday the “retro gods” smiled down on me. I drove down a street (different than my usual daily route) & saw a white dresser curbside…was I seeing things? Starburst brass drawer pulls! I was afraid it’d turn out to be a really damaged piece but it was in pretty good shape..a Morris colormates 9 drawer. Thank goodness the owner came out to help me load it in my car (another miracle it fit) & told me it was purchased in 1961. Joy! 🙂

  5. maria says

    Back in the ’60’s Dad repurposed an old plain front large church door into our coffee/end tables with hairpin legs. Those thick slabs of blond wood tables were beautiful in our family room.

  6. Nikki says

    What a great idea! I’ll be on the lookout for used sinks from now on – but if it were me, I’d have cleaned up the turquoise ones and sold them on Ebay – assuming they were in usable shape.

  7. June Cahill says

    Man O Man – I’d ‘dumpster dive or ‘trash pick’ ANYTHING that appeared slightly turquoise (or bittersweet orange!) – and a utility sink – I’d make it a HEAD FIRST dive! My mil (who lives in Rio) has the two most awesome porcelain pedestal utility sinks – complete with washboards…they are a scrumptious purple/blue color (matching the floor to ceiling tiles in her laundry room). I’ve been contemplating how to snitch those for years now – but am thinking hauling those cumbersome sinks back on the plane might even be ‘over my limit’ of brash, ‘in-yo’ -face’ things I’ve done in the past! Do you think they’d fit in an over-head bin?

  8. Carolyn says

    Pam, “…how to design a container garden: Tall stuff, flat stuff, and stuff that grows to sweep down…”
    That’s “thriller, filler, and spiller” – I know this today but ask me next spring what the components are called or the foundation plants (hostas – seriously?!) and those tropical flowers starting with “H” (hardy hibiscus) and I’ll be wracking my brain looking for those terms. Every year the same thing…sigh

  9. says

    Thanks Pam for the shout on on my laundry tub planter project! Yes, I zero in on all things turquoise and when I saw these out on the curb they immediately went in my pick-up….for I didn’t-know-what at the time. Atomic recycle, upcycle, re-use, etal. 🙂

    • Carolyn says

      Nate, and all, I’ve learned to my chagrin, that if your eyes light on it or you touch it/pick it up, it’s best just to bring it along and figure it out later. If it turns out you can’t figure out what to do with in a “reasonable amount of time” (snort!), you can always give it away. But if you DON’T take it, it will be to your eternal regret…
      There are only 2 caveats to this: I can’t afford it/pay that price or I don’t have transportation. Pickups and fold-down seats are our downfall.

  10. says

    Thanks for all of the Mad Mid Mod ideas. I have a 70’s side table I wanted to do something with. The hairpin legs will look great with it. What a great way to “modernize” any fab table top.

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